Silicon Valley Chipmaker Gets Graphic

Nvidia shows off its chips, while helping startups

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    Scott Budman
    Dancing with the chips ...

    It's a good time to be Nvidia.  They've been hiring lately, the company share price has doubled in six months, and their graphic chips are on their way into a red-hot supercomputer.  Interesting, then, that at its own Silicon Valley conference, Nvidia let dozens of other companies do the showing off.

    Walk in, and you can't miss the giant wrap-around screen with the larger-than-life video game coming at you (if you did miss it, there's video here: www.qik.com/budman).  Or, across the room, the grown men and women flailing their arms at an infrared camera, trying to contort their bodies to fit into virtual shapes on a big screen TV. All cool to see, all made by startups powered by Nvidia's graphic chip.

    Nvidia calls it the GPU.  As in, not a mere CPU made by the likes of Intel, which was not represented at the conference.  Who wants a regular old CPU, they say at Nvidia, when the GPU can give you all the graphics you want.  For gamers, it's been a "G" thing for years now, and Nvidia wants to spread the love.

    Nvidia's Jeff Herbst says his company doesn't mind taking a back seat to the startups.  He says that's one of the goals here. "This conference is about taking sixty great emerging companies," he says, "and introducing them to the VCs, entrepreneurs, and customers.  They love it."  And, why not?  In a tough environment for startups, having a big brother introduce you around the party can be a real icebreaker.

    And the feeling is mutual.  Back at the wrap-around screen, Adam Biehler of Scalable Display Technologies is doing the driving by joystick.  He's got three rows of people waiting to see his company's demo.  A worthwhile trip from Cambridge?  "Absolutely.  This is awesome."

    If enough people say that about the company's technology, it will have been a trip worth taking.